One indicator of high quality programs is the employment of a teaching staff that has the educational qualifications, knowledge, and professional commitment necessary to promote children’s learning and development and to support families’ diverse needs and interests. Children benefit most when their teachers have high levels of formal education and specialized early childhood professional preparation.

ECE professionals who have specific preparation, knowledge, and skills in child development and early childhood education are more likely to engage in warm, positive interactions with children, offer richer language experiences, and create more high-quality learning environments. Opportunities for teaching staff to receive supportive supervision and to participate in ongoing professional development ensure that their knowledge and skills reflect the profession’s ever-changing knowledge base.

The Pennsylvania Key offers a comprehensive, statewide career development system for practitioners serving children and families in early childhood and school age programs including: child care; early Head Start and Head Start; Early Intervention; public school; and private academic school.

This system provides a clearly articulated framework that defines pathways which are tied to certification (leading to qualifications and credentials) and addresses the needs of individuals and adult learners. Elements of the Pennsylvania Keys to Professional Development system include: core knowledge competencies, qualifications and credentials, quality assurances, access, and outreach and funding.

The goal for building a professional development system is to create a quality improvement system in which all early childhood programs and practitioners are supported and encouraged to improve child outcomes. The Pennsylvania professional development system aims to strengthen early childhood and school-age programs through the development of a well-qualified, skilled, and diverse workforce.

Learn more about professional development in Pennsylvania:

  • Career Pathways – Learn more about Pennsylvania’s new Career Pathway system. A career pathway is an individual’s approach to qualifying and advancing their knowledge in order to become eligible for different roles and responsibilities within their profession and will be used as a tool to support the ECE profession in entering the field prepared for success while growing the existing professional’s capacity to move up in the field if they so desire.
  • Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI)– Along with technical assistance and professional development, Pennsylvania provides many supports and resources for programs that are linked together under the Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) framework.
  • Credentials & Degrees – The Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) offers several ways for early childhood and school-age professionals to obtain credentials and degrees. Find more information here.
  • Financial Assistance – There are several different ways the early childhood professionals participating in credit-bearing coursework can obtain financial assistance. Find out more here.
  • Higher Education
  • Pennsylvania Quality Assurance System (PQAS) – The Pennsylvania Quality Assurance System (PQAS) maintains a registry of approved Professional Development Instructors and Technical Assistance Consultants/Coaches to help ensure that professional development activities and technical assistance meet quality standards.
  • Professional Competencies – Identified set of content areas that help define the knowledge expectations for professionals in settings within the early childhood and school-age field.
  • PD Registry – The PD Registry is a technology system that functions as a workforce registry. A workforce registry increases the number of high quality early childhood programs by helping to develop and track a knowledgeable and skilled early childhood workforce. A registry tracks an individual’s professional achievements and provides important data about the early childhood workforce to help raise the status and compensation for early care and education.